Chicago prepares for 25th NATO Summit

  • Last updated: 04 May. 2012 17:25

Preparations for the 25th NATO Summit are well underway in US President Obama’s hometown of Chicago, Illinois. The city will welcome thousands of visitors to the event on 20 and 21 May.

More than 60 heads of state and government will meet to discuss security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. They will deliver on decisions taken at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, driving forward key Alliance policies and reaffirming the transatlantic link.

Presidential choice

The decision to hold the Summit in Chicago was taken by President Obama, who felt that this would underline the importance of NATO for the United States.

“He wanted to demonstrate how much the United States valued NATO, how committed we were with the future of NATO, how much it was integrated in his plans with the future of American policy. So he decided that we will be hosting the summit and he decided to do it in his hometown. That's why it's very personal and of course special to him,” says Ben Rhodes, White House Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications.

“It also represents, I think, the diversity of the United States and the diversity that frankly represents many of the NATO member states who have very significant diaspora populations here,” he adds.

Melting-pot

Chicago is home to a multi-cultural population of over 2.6 million, including diaspora from many NATO countries such as Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Turkey.  Every aspect of the city’s culture is enriched by this melting-pot, from its streets and architecture to its music and cuisine. It is “a great culturally deep community with great art and cultural institutions,” according to Warren Wilkinson, Chief Marketing Officer at “Choose Chicago”.

“As the third-largest city in the United States, it's a very important global destination. Chicago is a wonderful spot for NATO to convene such an important meeting,” says Wilkinson.

Symbolic venue

Another of the city’s assets is McCormick Place, where the NATO Summit will be held. This symbolic place was built in 1960 but was destroyed by fire in 1967. It was then rebuilt to a completely different design.

Located 4 km from Chicago city centre, near Lake Michigan, McCormick Place boasts more than 250,000 m2 of exhibition space. International conferences and meetings have been held there regularly for years. It is recognised as the largest convention centre in the United States, welcoming three million visitors every year.

As the conference centre dons the NATO colours, its staff are braced to deal with the logistics during the Summit, providing 24-hour service to attendees.

“For really almost two and a half days we will be serving over 19 400 meals not only to the delegates themselves and to the staff which will be here for NATO but also to the international press that is also assembled here to cover this event. We will have 24 hours service providing breakfast, lunch and dinner,” explains David R.Causton, General Manager of McCormick Place.

Economic legacy

Chicago is a financial centre with a powerful industrial sector and is becoming a major player in the global economy.  The NATO Summit host committee is planning numerous culinary, sports and cultural events to show visitors the diversity of the city during the NATO Summit and they expect sustained financial effects.

Lori Healey, Executive Director of the host committee explains, “We anticipate that there will be significant numbers of temporary jobs created from that event and that's why we're working on the economic impact. We know that there will be hundreds of jobs created. We want to see what really translates to long-term”.

So as the “Windy City” puts the finishing touches on its preparations for the NATO Summit, locals are ready to share their multi-faceted city and its rich culture as a clear example of the benefits of the transatlantic link.